Avalon’s Rapid ReHousing ProgramBy: Avalon Housing
Since the spring of 2015, Avalon Housing has been administering the Washtenaw County Rapid ReHousing for Individuals (RRH) program. The people who are eligible for this program are experiencing literal homelessness, which means that they’re residing in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation, or they are fleeing domestic violence. The housing that we find for them comes out of the local, and sometimes broader, rental market.
Avalon has two funding sources for the RRHI program: the Emergency Solutions Grant through the Salvation Army as well as Washtenaw County Coordinated Funders. We also collaborate with a number of local partner agencies, including the Delonis Center, SafeHouse Center, Community Mental Health and the Project Outreach Team, the University of Michigan, St. Joseph Health System, Staples Center and Housing Access.
Unlike most of Avalon’s other housing programs, which provide long-term affordable housing and a variety of supports, Rapid ReHousing is intended to provide shorter-term assistance to people. Our goal is to help them transition to self-sufficiency as soon as folks are able to do so. Participants receive assistance in finding housing, usually an apartment or single room occupancy unit, and paying their security deposit. Some of our participants may have criminal histories, poor credit, prior evictions, or other barriers to achieving housing. Our Rapid ReHousing case manager and outreach coordinator help our participants navigate the local rental market, advocate on their behalf with potential landlords, and help them find affordable yet safe places to live.
Since homelessness is the primary requirement for Rapid ReHousing, we do not screen folks out due to lack of income, disabilities, or other factors that present barriers to housing. We operate within a “Housing First” model. We first help participants secure a place to live, and then help them find community services so that they can work up to eventually living unassisted. Often we’ll link participants to other supports within our agency, such as supportive employment, peer supports, and access to home-based health care through our partnership with Packard Health. Other times, we’ll connect folks to longer-term supports for mental health care and substance abuse recovery services. Longer-term, if an individual is unable to sustain housing through RRH, we can then present their case to the Community Housing Prioritization committee for consideration and referral for more intensive ongoing or long-term supportive housing.
Since the spring of 2015, over 75 individuals have achieved housing through Avalon’s Rapid ReHousing program. The clients we have served have ranged in age from 18 to 75. Some have experienced relatively brief episodes of homelessness and with some assistance were able to move on to self-sufficiency quickly. Others have been some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community.
There are many success stories to share. Here are just a few.
We began working with one individual through Rapid ReHousing while he was living at the Delonis Shelter. Once he found housing, he relapsed into substance use. Our coordinated funding allowed us to pay rent for his unit while he went to treatment. Upon leaving treatment, he decided to go into transitional housing to continue his recovery, with coordinated funding that helped him make an initial payment that he would not otherwise have been able to make. He then obtained employment and was selected for a Housing Choice Voucher. He remains clean, employed, and in his own apartment now.
A second client is a 22-year old woman who was staying at SafeHouse Center. Her mother is deceased, and she is not in communication with her father. She was able to move into housing through Rapid Rehousing and maintained employment. Soon after finding housing, she became pregnant. Our clinicians through our partnership at Packard Health were able to meet with her and provide prenatal care.
Another individual became homeless in the spring of this year. He was living in his car with his partner and experienced daily seizures related to stress and lack of sleep, as well as other medical issues. From April until October, he visited the emergency room 14 times. Since being housed in October, he has only been to the emergency room twice, and says he’s experienced only one seizure. He is able to live peacefully with his partner in safe and affordable housing. Housing has dramatically improved his health and led to far less hospital visits.
Every one of these individuals was able to overcome their homelessness and given a chance to succeed in maintaining housing long-term.
Looking ahead, we would like to expand our Rapid ReHousing program and formally coordinate our services to reach people who are returning from incarceration, and people who’ve been subjected to sexual trafficking. We’d also like to provide services to people who are experiencing homelessness and living with complex medical conditions, who resort to emergency room visits as a way to sleep indoors.